What’s the deal with QR codes?

May 27, 2011 | By | Comments (2)

Img-1 Has anyone else noticed the crazy looking, often black and white, graphics which have been popping up on ads, signs, web sites and business cards?

No? Oh, nevermind.

Okay – seriously. If you haven’t seen these little icons, stay tuned. You will – QR (Quick Response) codes have become the darling of the communications world, because, embedded within the shapes that make up the code is the ability to get your phone or mobile device to do something – visit a specific web site, show a YouTube video, display a phone number, or deliver a message. (Click here for a technical description of QR Codes from Wikipedia).

For the consumer, using a QR code is fairly simple. You need a phone or mobile device with a camera and a QR code reader application, which are available from a variety of sources. (I found several for my iPhone that were free, or available for a small cost).

With the app open, you hold your phone up to the QR code, and wait for the app to process the information embedded within the code. How it performs is determined by the person who created the code. (You can try it on the code above which should link you to a video “Why I listen to the Manic Mommies.”)

So, as you are running through the grocery store, trying to keep track of your kids and all the items on your list, should you take the time to scan a code if you see one? The answer is – yes, as long as you don’t mind being disappointed.

As QR codes proliferate, companies and communicators like myself are struggling with how to use this new technology in ways that are meaningful, avoiding, as one of my clients said, “the Ralphie moment.”

You know. That moment in a A Christmas Story when Ralphie, upon receipt of his Secret Society decoder pin, was disappointed to discover that the secret message was a commercial for Ovaltine.

More times then not, when I’ve scanned a code, I have received something akin to advertising. For example, the sign from M&M shown below. Looks cool, right? And I assumed (incorrectly) that scanning the code would deliver something such as a coupon for dark chocolate M&Ms. Instead, I was sent to the Facebook Page for M&M Canada.


That’s not to say there aren’t great ways QR codes are being used. I found one in a luggage catalog that, when scanned, linked to a video demonstrating all the features of the high-end suitcase it was displayed beside. And many retailers are looking at ways to provide discounts and coupons through QR codes.

Have you scanned a QR code? Did you get something that made it worth the effort, or did you have a Ralphie moment?